‘Negative’ outlook for Gulf sovereign ratings in 2018, says Moody’s

Bahrain’s debt is expected to approach 100 percent of GDP by 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 15 January 2018
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‘Negative’ outlook for Gulf sovereign ratings in 2018, says Moody’s

DUBAI: The outlook this year for sovereign ratings in the GCC is “negative,” according to ratings agency Moody’s in a new report highlighting geopolitical risks and muted economic growth as factors undermining the creditworthiness of the region.
“Although oil prices have risen significantly from their lows in early 2016, most sovereigns in the region will continue to run sizable fiscal deficits and record an increase in their debt burdens over the next 12 to 18 months,” said Steffen Dyck, vice president as senior credit officer at Moody’s.
“In addition, long-standing geopolitical event risks have come to the fore again and will play an important role in defining sovereign credit quality in 2018.”
The report forecast a slight increase in GDP growth of close to 2 percent this year across the GCC.
While regional government debt burdens are set to rise, the report said, the speed of growth will vary from country to country. Bahrain’s debt is expected to approach 100 percent of GDP by 2019.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia’s debt burdens are forecast to increase, but at lower levels in comparison to Bahrain, according to the report. Qatar and the UAE’s debt is expected to stabilize in 2018 and 2019.
Regional geopolitical tensions are likely to persist in 2018, with Moody’s anticipating that the diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar by the Saudi Arabia-led group of Arab countries will continue throughout 2018 and possibly longer.
Three out of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries currently have negative rating outlooks, according to Moody’s, with the remaining countries having stable outlooks.
This is an improvement compared to the start of 2017 when four out of six had negative outlooks. Qatar, Oman and Bahrain all saw their credit rating downgraded last year by Moody’s.


Can a hungry Mali turn rice technology into ‘white gold’?

Updated 20 October 2018
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Can a hungry Mali turn rice technology into ‘white gold’?

  • Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change
  • Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983

BAGUINEDA: When rice farmers started producing yields nine times larger than normal in the Malian desert near the famed town of Timbuktu a decade ago, a passerby could have mistaken the crop for another desert mirage.
Rather, it was the result of an engineering feat that has left experts in this impoverished nation in awe — but one that has yet to spread widely through Mali’s farming community.
“We must redouble efforts to get political leaders on board,” said Djiguiba Kouyaté, a coordinator in Mali for German development agency GIZ.
With hunger a constant menace, Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change.

 

Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983. It involves planting fewer seeds of traditional rice varieties and taking care of them following a strict regime.
Seedlings are transplanted at a very young age and spaced widely. Soil is enriched with organic matter, and must be kept moist, though the system uses less water than traditional rice farming.
Up to 20 million farmers now use SRI in 61 countries, including in nearby Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ivory Coast, said Norman Uphoff, of the SRI International Network and Resources Center at Cornell University in the US.
But, despite its success, the technique has been embraced with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Uphoff said that is because it competes with the improved hybrid and inbred rice varieties that agricultural corporations sell.
For Faliry Boly, who heads a rice-growing association, the prospect of rice becoming a “white gold” for Mali should spur on authorities and farmers to adopt rice intensification.
The method could increase yields while also offering a more environmentally-friendly alternative, including by replacing chemical fertilizers with organic ones, he said.
He also pointed out that rice intensification naturally lends itself to Mali’s largely arid climate.

FACTOID

Up to 20 million farmers now use rice intensification in 61 countries, including in nearby Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ivory Coast.